TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Authorities are offering a word of caution for holiday shoppers.
Last year criminals cost Americans nearly $15 billion over the holiday season.
That includes everything from credit card fraud and retail theft to fraudulent returns and counterfeit money.
By far the biggest losses involve electronic transactions and online purchases, authorities said.
The good news for consumers is banks and credit card companies absorbed 90 percent of the fraudulent transactions reported last year.
But unsuspecting victims continue to put themselves at risk by browsing in free Wi-Fi zones or shopping online at unverified websites.
"Just make sure the site's credible," said Conner Kerr, a concerned University of Arizona student. "Just to be sure you're not getting scammed or whatnot."
Sgt. Rick Radinsky of the Tucson Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit said, "If it's a public mobile hot spot it can put you at an increased risk of having your data intercepted as well. So be aware if you're automatically connecting to public hotspots. You may want to avoid using that public hot spot to shop on."
Another concern this holiday season is gift cards, authorities said.
Nearly three out of four retailers report an increase in gift card fraud/theft over the past year.
Receipt fraud is also a big issue this year. Retailers estimate at last 12 percent of returns made throughout the year without a receipt are fraudulent, which is why 71 percent of retailers now require customers returning items without a receipt to provide identification.
Even when a receipt is present, more retailers now ask for identification (25.5 percent polled this year versus 12.3 percent last year).
The bottom line is, you should keep all your retail receipts this holiday and expect to show identification for any and all returns.